Monday, September 15, 2008

Vacant lot

I don't remember the movie that I had gone to watch. But on the seats were fliers for Silver Sands, a resort on what is today the East Coast Road. My father told me that the resort was owned by the same family that owned the theatre and I remember thinking that there couldn't have been a more appropriately named family as the owners of one of the most splendid movie-halls of Madras. Were they always called that or did they get their name from the crowds that came to watch the movies? How could anyone not go to a theatre owned by a family named Veecumsee? The Safire Complex opened in 1964/5; it must have been a gala opening, with the big name "Cleopatra" (Richard Burton / Elizabeth Taylor) being shown on the first widescreen in the country. And the novelty of having two other theatres - Emerald & Blue Diamond - in the same building!

Safire was the true sparkler, showing grand movies, mainly English, but Hindi and Tamil as well, if the scale of the movie required it. Emerald was the 'janta' theatre, where the regular movies were shown. At a time when Safire's balcony seats were priced at Rs.2.90, Blue Diamond charged Rs.7 for its tickets. And the movies were sometimes unheard of, released in the festival circuit and largely ignored by both the regular movie goers and those discerning, appreciative film audience. For Blue Diamond catered to a completely different segment: the Rs.7 ticket allowed you entry anytime from 9.00 am (yes, AM!) and you could stay in the theatre watching the same film over and over again, until the last show ended around midnight. Without realizing what I was watching, I've been enthralled by Sergei Eisenstein's "Que Viva Mexico", but have also sat (repeatedly) through some horrendous duds. It was fun to go to Blue-D, but it was not something that you'd let parents know about!

The complex was pulled down nearly 15 years ago. Since then, this empty 1-acre lot reflects the emptiness any true Madrasi feels when s/he looks at it - the Safire Complex was such an object of pride and joy that it seems like nothing can ever take its place!



5 comments:

Ottayan said...

S,

You touched a chord there. The Blue-D was an Asan favorite. I have a hazy memory of watching Maro Charitra innumerable times and also ABBA the movie.

Have also watched quiet a few that I do not recollect as I was otherwise engaged. :)

Shantaram said...

>> Ottayan>> Well, the memories are always of the good times!

chorinchath said...

When I read the name Safire, it brings back the memory of a film The VIPs *ing Ele ylr/Rich Burtn, I watched years back there. The Eagle Co. introduced a special VIP flask that time and the film was shown in 700 theatres around the world. At the time of interval half of the hall was empty.By the time film ended and lights came I could count only a handful of spectators of which many were in deep slumber Narayananchorinchath

chorinchath said...

When I read the name Safire, it brings back the memory of a film The VIPs *ing Ele ylr/Rich Burtn, I watched years back there. The Eagle Co. introduced a special VIP flask that time and the film was shown in 700 theatres around the world. At the time of interval half of the hall was empty.By the time film ended and lights came I could count only a handful of spectators of which many were in deep slumber Narayananchorinchath

Shantaram said...

>> C>> Thank you for the comment!